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Nurturing new business relationships has always been more of an art than a science. Though each relationship is different, there are some common factors that make relationship building go smoothly. Effective communication and strategic follow-up are essential in cultivating a lead and converting it into a future sale. Consider these steps when you talk to new business leads.

Tip #1 Keep detailed notes. A lead management tracker is crucial for organization. Keep track of all follow-up touch points, as well as details on the lead’s goals, challenges and questions. More important than documenting this information is putting it to good use – reference it often to personalize communication.

Tip #2 Confirm a date and time. During the initial conversation, establish an agreed-upon time and date for follow-up. Inquire about when is convenient or recommend a few options. Be as specific as possible and avoid terms like “next week.” If it is a meeting (in person or on the phone), consider sending a reminder in advance to reaffirm your interest.

Tip #3 Follow through on your commitment. Trust is a foundational element in building relationships, so it is imperative to deliver what was promised. Be punctual to meetings, and follow up with the information or estimate discussed. Set reminders on your calendar to make sure you never miss an important next step.

Tip #4 Serve as a resource to help improve their business. Make a mental or physical note of the prospect’s particular challenges or interests. Then add value in your follow-up by sharing ideas, insights or perhaps a relevant article they may find useful. Topics could include relevant industry or market news, or even something non-business related in which they have expressed interest.

Tip #5 Test and learn.  Each lead has different needs, meaning there is no exact replicable recipe for success. Test different approaches and monitor the effectiveness to establish best practices for common circumstances. Make note of any lead feedback to inform your personal approach.